THE IRAN MISTAKE

Aquarian Weekly
1/8/20
 
Reality Check
 

James Campion
 
 
THE IRAN MISTAKE
Forget Impeachment, Crimes, Lying, Stupidity & Sucking Up to Tyrants – This is the Worst Part of the Worst First Term
 
 
We are at the brink of war with Iran.

The executive branch is at war with Congress.

The Senate and the House are at war.

A game show host is in charge of all this.

Welcome to 2020.

What a shock. Impeachment. Then the assassination of a key war figure of a perpetual enemy. Is this what they call “wagging the dog”? Crisis. Distraction. Didn’t Bill Clinton do some bombing after he was impeached? Yeah. Same shit. Trump. Clinton. Shamed. War. Got it.

What makes this worse is Donald Trump appealed to the great unwashed for his constant mocking of stupid moves in the Middle East and now he has got himself one. It is a good distraction, for sure. Making bold idiotic moves to change the narrative is all well and good when you are stealing real estate in Manhattan or selling a pro wrestling gig. It even worked to sucker the duped into voting for you. Using the presidency as a queer business maneuver – like the Ukrainian nonsense which got him impeached – is another direr story entirely.

Assassinating Iran’s top military commander, suddenly the most important thing in the world – as Syrian burns and North Korea spits in our face and Europe laughs at us – with a gutted State Department and a Department of Defense in shambles is a bad move. War with Iran was always a bad move. Even in the best of times. These are not the best of times. Far from it. We are not prepared for this shit. Hell, this was an imprudent move in 1979 and through the 1980s and into 9/11. Always bad. Ask Saddam Hussein. Oh, shit. You can’t. They hung him. Why? Because we made him our puppet to take on Iran and they beat him mercilessly and we decided to hunt him as a despot, invade his country and then turn him over to what amounted to Iranians.

This is just another in an agonizing series of foreign policy blunders for this president. What the fuck am I talking about? There is no foreign policy. There is no domestic policy. This is reality TV for Trump. His capacity to parse these things does not exist. He is a damaged personality living in paranoia and madness and the best place for that kind of thing is the Pentagon. They love a commander-in-chief with his back against the wall. But no one, not even our top generals think we can sustain a third-front war in the region. We are still at war in Syria, despite rhetoric to the contrary, and in Iraq, where this guy was offed, and of course in Afghanistan – our longest running military mistake, which we have learned (yet again) was run on a lie and perpetuated for nearly two decades on more lies. Your brothers and sisters, sons and daughters died for a lie, just like in Korea and Viet Nam. And this lie by the most untrustworthy human to ever take the office is a doozy.

Even for the far less cynical, the timing is more than intriguing.

And it could have been avoided. In fact, it was avoided. Because the previous commander-in-chief had a choice; engage in an unwinnable conflict with the largest country in the Middle East or try and curtail its nuclear capabilities while giving lip-service to its inclusion in the world politick. Barrack Obama wisely chose door #2. It was his finest hour. It had international support and by all accounts (not most) it was working. For the first time, Iran was not pursuing nuclear capabilities. It was good for the region, especially good for our most cherished ally, Israel, and good for the world. I supported it wholeheartedly, and I support almost nothing. It was certainly not perfect. Nothing is perfect. This is not Disneyland. This is the real world. Things are difficult and have setbacks and bumps and bruises and you work with that. But all of this, reasoned the game show host, had to go, because Obama did it and all-things Obama had to go, because Donald Trump is a simpleton and should have been sent packing in the first weeks of a Republican primary, but has now engaged us in a war with Iran.

Again, even for the far less cynical, the timing is more than intriguing. And since it is hard to believe anything this dunce has to say we find that the same day hundreds of incriminating unredacted emails between the Department of Defense (trying to release the halted funds to Ukraine as directed by Congress and signed originally by the president) and the Office of Management and Budget (doing the bidding of Rudy Giuliani/Donald Trump) further implicated the president in criminal activity, an overt act of war ordered by Trump is sketchy.

However, regardless of timing and distraction from his disgraced presidency, this nation is on the brink of war with Iran. From its statements, Iran believes we are already there. Oil prices soared overnight. Israel is in lock-down. The over-reaching battle against ISIS, already damaged by recent ill-advised actions by this administration, is over. Trump has escalated troop numbers to the region already. Congress is being kept in the dark. Zero Pentagon briefings. Propaganda talking points. Trump tweeted an American flag.

Welcome to 2020. The year we have to find a way to oust this bleating cancerous boil from the White House and try and undo three years of astonishing destruction. That is if we see 2021.

Happy New Year. 

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Exile in Guyville (33/13 Series) – Gina Arnold (2014)

While on the subject of the aforementioned 33 1/3 Series, one of the finest ones, which I’d just read when readying this edition of Rock Reads, is Gina Arnold’s deconstruction of Liz Phair’s monumental Exile in Guyville. Arnold, one of the finest historians on the indie movement of the late Eighties to early Nineties, puts the 1993 release into pinpoint perspective while getting inside many of its myths, geographical touchstones and feminine evocations.

Much of Phair’s persona and this record in particular took on a wider interpretation at the time of its release. There was a sense that the album’s raw expression on sexuality, personal angst, a lashing out on external demons and the dying of a musical street movement in Chicago was somehow a referendum on the artist and not the art made delving into this book a treat for me, and the author did not disappoint. This is as much a record of its times and beyond it, and Arnold leaves no subject ignored. 

Of course, the one thing that intrigued me from the moment the album was released – beyond its DIY mastery of tape demos being put out as statement a la Daniel Johnston and Michelle Shocked and later Beck, all of whom perked my ears in a time when rock and roll had become a bit stale again – is its immediate reference to my favorite Rolling Stones album Exile on Main St. By name-checking arguably one of the two or three finest rock records of all time, Phair goes into sacred territory on her own terms. Many, including your truly, dismissed the originally stated idea by Phair that Guyville is a track-by-track answer to the Stones, specifically the macho messaging by Mick Jagger. You would have to be someone looking for such things to consider it as a serious exercise, but Arnold does it! And does it with the kind of intense music writing that makes doing what I do as a music journalist and essayist worth noting.

As stated, this series is worth exploring in general, but if you need to start somewhere, Gina Arnold provides a template to why these books work so well in making listening to these works subsequently appealing.  

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The 33 1/3 B-Sides: New Essays by 33 1/3 Authors on Beloved and Underrated Albums – Edited by Will Stockton and D. Gilson

Speaking of music journalists, the highly recommended 33 1/3 series out of London, of which I have enjoyed more than a dozen of their over two-hundred volumes based on seminal records of the rock era, has just released a very interesting compendium penned by many of the same authors to dig deep into their secret loves of overlooked classics (hence B-Sides) – some by wildly successful artists and others almost completely ignored. It is a revisit to records that for reasons broached in each essay need to be reconsidered. It’s a fantastic idea and a great read.

There is so much care and passion by the authors on each selection, it is hard to cite the most compelling. I was, of course, jazzed by selections I too think are easily dismissed as lesser works by significant artists, The Rolling Stones’ It’s Only Rock and Roll (written by David Masciotra), The Cars’ Candy O (Susan Fast) and still others that I believe are masterpieces in their own right as in Sinead O’Connor’s brilliant, I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got (Tara Murtha) Jane’s Addiction’s Nothing’s Shocking (Rolf Potts) and Songs of Love and Hate by the always evocative Leonard Cohen (Drew Daniel).

Full disclosure, back when the series was published by Continuum Publishing, also out of London, I was working with an editor there to write a volume about the 1976 KISS album Destroyer, a record (in the spirit of B-Sides) I have long argued has been discounted in the pantheon of great 1970s hard rock releases, mostly due to critical prejudice of the band’s cartoonish persona. After extensive interviews and mounds of research bloated the project that would eventually be titled Shout it Out Loud – The Story of KISS’s Destroyer and the Making of an American Icon  I was to take it to my current publisher Backbeat Books for a 2015 release.

Nevertheless, the very concept of trying to reimagine its impact was an inspiration.

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Shake It Up: Great American Writing on Rock and Roll and Pop from Elvis to Jay Z – Edited by Jonathan Lethem and Kevin Dettmar (2017)

For someone who has spent many years writing about music and compiling quite a list of heroes along the way, a collection of the best music journalists and essayists is a true gift. And Shake It Up delivers. Having read many of these articles and essays before, it is nice to have these seminal pieces available in a single volume. There isn’t one key music writer form the past half century missing. Editors Johnathan Lethem and Keven Dettmar uncover some real gems too. The main voices from gender to race from hip hop to rockabilly are featured.

Reading some of my favorites, Paul Nelson, Lester Bangs, Greil Marcus, and the self-proclaimed dean of all rock writers, Robert Christgau is quite illuminating when they are all there back to back to back. The way the book is arranged, it provides a wonderful chronological sense of where the rock world began all the way to today through the voices of those who lived it, expressed it, turned it from a teenage fad into a serious consideration as a legitimate artform.

Stand-outs include “The Memphis Soul Sound” by Stanley Booth – I loved his book on the Stones 1969 tour and his observations on Altamont, The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones that I may or may not have reviewed here –an excerpt from acclaimed poet, Amiri Baraka’s The Changing Same (R & B and New Black Music), which I plan on reviewing here in the near future, “The Cars’ Power Steering”, chronicling the formation and incredible success of The Cars in the late-seventies by NY Times entertainment critic, Jon Pareles, a piece that I read mere days before their founder and main songwriter, Ric Ocasek died, and John Jeremiah Sullivan’s in-depth reporting on the weirdly wonderful and equally repellent lead singer of Guns N’ Roses, “The Final Comeback of Axl Rose”.

Volumes such as these are important guides to our understanding of how the music was digested during its times and how they altered the landscape of the future. These are the voices who were there to describe the view and put it into perspective.  

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Solid State: The Story of Abbey Road and the End of the Beatles – Kenneth Womak (2019)

The final days of the Beatles. Has there ever been a more overly detailed account of a breakup in the annals of print? Yet, Kennth Womak has written a wonderful new book, Solid State: The Story of Abbey Road and the End of the Beatles, which comes on the fiftieth anniversary of the classic album’s release. Womak uses the backdrop of the Beatles final musical statement to provide new insight into the events surrounding the disintegration of the world’s most popular rock and roll band and its refusal to go away quietly.

What makes Solid State stand out from previous “end of the Beatles sagas” is as the title hints, it concentrates on perhaps the most crucial instrument on Abbey Road, the then brand-new solid state mixing board introduced to the studio whose name the record bares as its title. Abbey Road was indeed recorded in the place where nearly all the band’s legendary music was realized, but in the winter of 1969 there was one major difference: The studio moved away from its trusty BTR four-track machine for a new solid state board and an eight track deck, something the Beatles and many of its contemporaries clamored for since its introduction a year earlier. The very sound of the band was altered, the smoother and deeper Paul McCartney bass runs, the crunchier John Lennon rhythm guitar riffs, the sweetly resonant slide guitar of George Harrison, and the silky groove of Ringo Starr’s drum rolls. It is as if the band of the Sixties was heralding the Seventies. This, among other pressing issues within and without is what captivated the Beatles enough to rekindle previous magic with producer George Martin to make one final brilliantly sonic profession of their mystical talents.

If you are a studio nerd or a Beatles aficionado you will love this book, but for the mildly curious, or those learning about this seminal period in the final days of an historic run of musical success, there is plenty to cull here. For me, perhaps the coolest nugget is the transcript of a meeting between three of the Beatles (taped because Ringo was absent due to tests for stomach pain) that starkly reveals the problems each of them were harboring with the music – beyond the lawsuits and backbiting, drug issues and other nagging elements that finished them off. Their personalities, the years of crushing fame and stellar artistic output coming tumbling forth to expose their truest personalities beyond the Fab Four that were soon to be no more.  

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The Beautiful Ones – Prince Rogers Nelson (2019)

Mere months before he was found dead in an elevator in his home/studio complex, Paisley Park in April of 2016, Prince Rogers Nelson, one of the most talented, celebrated and enigmatically reclusive rock stars of all time put out word with little to no fanfare around the publishing world that he was ready to write his memoir. Shockwaves and rumors and several aborted attempts to pin Prince down – a seemingly impossible task since his emergence on the music scene as a nineteen year-old phenom that convinced Warner Bros to give him complete creative control over his work. Enter writer/editor, Dan Piepenbring, who was both an advisory editor at the Paris Review and a rabid Prince fan. The story of his enchanting but furiously quick time in Prince’s presence working through pages of scribbled screed from the man himself about his childhood makes up a third of The Beautiful Ones. The other two-thirds of the book is just as intriguing.

The second part features Piepenbring’s yeoman’s work making heads or tails of Prince’s cadence, his use of weird symbols that replace words like “two” and “four” with their subsequent numerals and “I” with a drawing of an eyeball, and many other eccentricities into a readable text that is the most revealing of Prince’s private thoughts, fears and dreams. The passages about his parents and his awakening as a musician and eventually one of the great artists of the latter half of the previous century and the first sixteen years of this one is well worth the effort.

The third part is a treasure-trove of extremely rare photographs, notes, and mementos from Prince’s rise to fame all the way through the triumph of his groundbreaking smash hit Purple Rain album, film and tour. There is original artwork and designs for album covers, tour outfits, staging and insights into the magical world that Prince had figured in his head and set about infusing into the music and eventually those who helped make it a reality.

And while it is a bittersweet document of what could have been had Prince not accidentally overdosed on prescribed opioids at age fifty-seven, we nonetheless have a better grasp on the mysteries surrounding the blossoming of a superstar in his own words and with images from deep inside his life.

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Me – Elton John (2019)

In the wake of this summer’s blockbuster biopic, Rocket Man reminding everyone how preternaturally brilliant, insanely famous and spectacularly screwed-up Elton John was in the 1970s and 80s, here comes his far more detailed memoir, Me. The author proves one thing straight away, the playful drama of the film doesn’t include his incredible self-awareness of his proclivities, talents and addictions, and that by imparting it in this most intimate way, he is damned funny. It is through his self-deprecating humor that Elton John becomes less cartoon superstar, something he readily admits he knew compromised his musical integrity as a part of one the great songwriting duos of the rock and roll era, and brings us closer to the man behind it all. It is in those intrepid insights into his myopic thrill-ride of a life and career where Me truly comes alive.

My complaint, as it was with Keith Richards and Pete Townshend’s memoirs, is that there just isn’t enough info into Elton’s two main contributions to the genre; his aforementioned composing with Bernie Taupin, and his instinctual ability to awe audiences from the very beginning. For the decade of the seventies when Elton John was the biggest rock star on the planet he released thirteen albums in nine years, some two or three in a single year, many of them some of the decade’s finest, and played the world over. His 1982 MSG show is still the best concert I have ever seen. So, count me as biased here, but it is clear Elton is far more interested in sharing a retrospective of having written “Your Song” in twelve minutes or the utter terror he felt starting at his idol, Leon Russell from the Troubadour stage when he blew Hollywood away and literally became an overnight sensation in the U.S. than he is with explaining how he did it.

One thing Elton does reveal much of is his truly incredible drug abuse, his search for love in almost all the wrong places, and his constant battles to expunge the sins of his parents, especially a love-hate cycle for decades with his mother. Of course, most people perusing fame with as raid ambition have some part of their past in which they are first motivated and then mortified by the results, but Elton’s is a heartfelt and triumphant journey from child abuse to a loving father and humanitarian who has conquered his demons. Me is a brave telling and in a voice that is, well, damn hilarious and brutally honest. Kind of like sitting for tea with Sir Elton.

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NOT ALL REPUBLICANS ARE FOR TRUMP

Aquarian Weekly
12/11/19
 
Reality Check
 

James Campion
 
 
NOT ALL REPUBLICANS ARE FOR TRUMP
Mass Exodus of GOP in Congress Tell a Different Tale
 
I have spent weeks hammering Republicans who have contorted their broken ideologies and done mind-bending about-faces on morality and Russia and free trade and exploding deficits and a ton of other apparently flimsy tenets of what used to make up their platform to kowtow to a rabid base that props up the worst polling numbers in the history of a first-term president. Donald Trump, I’ve surmised, has crippled the party, because, really, what could they do? They have to defend this. Supreme Court judges, tax cuts, a booming stock market and low unemployment is not nothing. So what if he’s a criminal and a doofus and the laughing stock of the world and blurts out daily vulgarities as a matter of Twitter discourse? And although having done this kind of thing for decades, I understand it. I do. But it turns out that I was not entirely correct about this. A preponderance of polling and a whole lot of talking does not quite meet the one criterion that matters in this workaday world; actions.

This week, Representative Tom Graves of Georgia announced that he is retiring from congress. At present, Graves makes seventeen Republicans that have decided to quit rather than seek reelection in 2020. This is not too dissimilar to the twenty-three House Republicans who bailed prior to the November 2018 crushing the GOP took in eventually losing forty seats in the midterms. Now, not all of these are merely seasoned professional politicians seeing the writing on the proverbial wall that Trump is headed for defeat and is poised to take the party down with him in November. More than a few have been around a long time – which some may argue means that it has taken three harrowing years of a game show host stumbling his way through the executive branch to make this a sane alternative to continuing the gig. But then again it may just be time to seek quieter pastures. Still, there is something brewing beyond this.

To wit: Only two of the escaping legislators, F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr. from Wisconsin and New York’s Peter King, are north of seventy. And despite abysmal approval ratings for the president, his pending impeachment in the very same House of Representatives, and the continuing low approvals for congress in general, many of these Republican retirees come from districts (polling twenty to thirty percent higher than the nation’s average) that they will most likely win without much effort. So why not run?

Well, let’s take Greg Walden from Oregon, who has raised a shit-ton of money and is virtually unbeatable in his district. What is his reason for getting out? And, by the way, he is not alone. There are others who have raised enough funds and have superior polling numbers to show that they could keep their jobs beyond 2020, and yet they want out.

I proffer that these representatives simply can no longer bear Donald Trump or where the country is going – fiscally, morally or otherwise. Some announced they were quitting shortly after Trump’s knee-jerk shift in Syrian policy turning America’s Kurdish allies over to their Turkish enemies without notifying anyone, including the Pentagon. Some also mildly raised eyebrows about the spend-thrift lunacy signed off by a Republican president. Recently former fiscal conservative rodeo clown Rush Limbaugh answered a caller concerned about the exploding debt under Trump by saying, “There has never been fiscal conservatives, that was always a myth.” And then there is the thorny battle between phony Evangelists who claim some form of aborted Christian values and yet tossed them into the shit can for this bleating oaf of a president, who mocks, spats and pays off hookers with campaign funds and holds sway over the human tragedy that is occurring at our southern border.

A good example of someone who is quitting directly because of Trump is Florida Rep. Francis Rooney, the only House Republican to publicly say he was open to impeaching Trump. The next day he quit. Rooney put his mouth where his position is and combined anti-Trump rhetoric with leaving, but for the most part the rest of those who have decided to abandon public service in the past few months have simply given no reason or just the standard, “I’m done.”

These representatives simply can no longer bear Donald Trump or where the country is going – fiscally, morally or otherwise.

It was either Sigmund Freud, Thomas Aquinas or someone or other said that “there are no coincidences” and we know that regardless of whatever lip service people provide, their actions indeed speak louder than words. Something is up.

I choose to see this as some Republicans not being comfortable with all this and to stick around and have to deal with a pro-Trump primary opponent or to rubber stamp this mess is simply beneath them. Many of my colleagues, and still other brain damaged types, claim this is a sign that perhaps things may not go as smoothly in an upcoming senate trial for Trump. But a Republican-controlled upper chamber is not going to kick their president out of office no matter what crazy, illegal, anti-American crap he does. And, again, if that is the way they wish to play it, I cannot argue with them. And this is why although I am considered a cynic, I am a realist. I never believe when people talk about loving America or blah-blah values. This is how things work. Self-preservation wins against America and values every time.

Other commentators and insiders broach the idea that legacy and having the stain of letting these latest crimes and misdemeanors pass will forever put senators in the “wrong side of history” box and that may sway them. But a gig is a gig and if you belong to a club or a team or a company, and in this case a political party, you may have to fall on a sword or two to keep your job or at least keep the whole thing afloat.

But it ain’t all of them. Seventeen and counting members of congress are begging to differ. They won’t stick around to continue to besmirch their names with this madness. Maybe they actually care about the country, the constitution or perhaps they’re thinking of saving their own hides. The last one is probably true, because I highly doubt even in exiting they would vote against the party to impeach Trump in the House. But, nevertheless, what their quitting ultimately says is that it is better than whatever Donald Trump and his cronies are cooking up next. And I can’t say I disagree with that either.    
 

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GORDON SONDLAND – THE HUMAN CARPET BOMB

Aquarian Weekly
11/27/19

Reality Check

James Campion

GORDON SONDLAND – THE HUMAN CARPET BOMB 
Trump Supporter & EU Ambassador Buries Everyone in Key Impeachment Testimony

I know that members of this committee frequently frame these complicated issues in the form of a simple question: Was there a “quid pro quo”? As I testified previously with regard to the requested White House call and the White House meeting, the answer is yes. 
– EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland

The final twenty minutes of Francis Ford Coppola’s 1972 cinematic masterpiece The Godfather features the killing of everyone protagonist Michael Corleone considers enemies to his crime family. The mob boss refers to this as “taking care of all family business.” This is the best analogy to describe what EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland did this week in his testimony to congress. Those who figured this pro-Trump donor, rich guy who bought his way into his position would plead the fifth amendment and be a hostile witness to the Democratic-led impeachment hearings were way off. The man came with a story and that story is that not only did the president of the United States demand that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelinisky make a public statement that his country would be conducting investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son’s involvement in a company called Burisma, but whether the investigation actually transpired mattered in no way to Donald Trump, only that it was publicly announced, so the president could use it as a political hammer to pummel who be believed was his most threatening opponent in the 2020 election.

Essentially, days after the Mueller Report made it clear a frightening number of members of the Trump 2016 campaign for president worked with Russians to dig up dirt on his then opponent Hillary Clinton, Trump was doing it again. I mean, what country makes public announcements about starting an investigation? But, shit, who can blame him? It worked the first time. Sondland, a business man with no experience being an ambassador of anything, was tasked with “making deals” with the president’s private counsel, Rudolf Giuliani in Ukraine to help the president out. Instead, he got busted and went all Michael Corleone, repeating over and over this week under oath, “We followed the president’s orders.”

During his opening statement Sondland emphatically stated, “We all understood that these pre-requisites for the White House call and White House meeting reflected President Trump’s desires and requirements. Secretary (Rick) Perry, Ambassador (Kurt) Volker and I worked with Rudy Giuliani on Ukraine matters at the express direction of the president of the United States.”

Sondland evoked the infamous “Three Amigos”, who were running a counter shadow diplomacy (shakedown) with the Ukraine president while diplomats like Dr. Fiona Hill, who testified the next day she was pissed at Sondland for undermining their work, were woefully unaware. But they were not alone. Before Sondland was done guffawing his way through his testimony he dragged half the Trump Administration into this fiasco – Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, White House Chief of Staff Mike Mulvaney, Vice President Mike Pence and all those in their employ. “I don’t remember anyone ever sounding an alarm bell,” he said under questioning. “Everyone’s hair was on fire, but no one decided to talk to us.”

Sondland testified that “everyone was in the loop” on what amounted to a half-baked plan to get Ukraine into American domestic politics because Trump has proven he cannot win an election without foreign aid. Again, this makes sense, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, but this time he was a sitting president and according to one of the first and foremost edicts of the founders of this nation there should never be foreigners involved in any American election. And so now Trump is being impeached over it, which also makes sense to me, because if it is broke, you kind of have to try and fix it.

But what now of the secretary of state, who has already been implicated by what has appeared over the past few months to be a seriously brain damaged Rudy Giuliani, who went on every television station available to say the state department begged him to conduct this lunacy? Pompeo has also admitted to being on the July 25 call that was the smoking gun to all of this and if Sondland and Giuliani are to be believed – and who the fuck knows about that because they’re are both as guilty as sin and running wild trying to toss as much mud everywhere else – then he, and thus the state department, was more or less in charge of this operation.

Anything goes and there isn’t a fucking thing the second equal-branch of government can do about it.

Giuliani seems to be the sacrificial goat here, as his partners in crime and Republicans in the House try and make him the end-game on how this craziness went off the rails, somehow separating the private attorney for Trump who was doing something that would benefit the president as a rogue agent. For his part, Giuliani continues to claim to be some kind of lawyer yet litigates on TV shows and waves around documents corroborated by idiots and delinquents, then gets caught in several criminal operations which are currently being investigated by the state of New York.

Then it was Mike Mulvaney’s turn. You might remember the president’s chief of staff and the one responsible for the money being held up for Ukraine that alarmed the whistleblower and the parade of witnesses proving an impeachable offense this week, holding a press conference admitting weeks ago that Trump was extorting the Ukrainians and that we “should get over it.” Turns out Sondland was also reporting this nonsense back to him and that he knew all about it and this is why neither he nor Pompeo want any part of testifying in these hearings despite Republicans and Trump supporters shouting about how innocent, normal and “perfect” this behavior is by the president. Why, you may ask, do they hide from exonerating him? Sondland says they can’t speak simply because they’re guilty, like he’s guilty, which made his testimony so compelling. The guy, with a huge smile on his face like someone busted with his hands in the cookie jar, openly implicated himself in front of congress. That is bad ass.

Then Sondland turned on the vice president, making sure congress and the American people understood he was also in this nefarious “loop”. This took Republicans by surprise. They had spent all week jumping through rhetorical hoops to divest Pence from this mess just in case things went haywire in the Senate and Trump did get sent packing. To this end, smelling a possible presidency, the office for Mike Pence had to scramble in real time to send out a mass press email denying all of it. Trump followed Sondland’s show with his classic, “I barely know this guy” routine – which may soon be the case with Giuliani, Mulvaney and Pence. Can’t you see it, “Sure, Mike is the vice president, but I hardly talk to him and can’t even picture what he looks like.”

Because, of course, all of these crimes, testified Sondland, was at the behest of Donald J. Trump. This, I should point out, was after the multi-millionaire, who doesn’t need this gig, watched former Trump associate Roger Stone go to jail earlier in the week for seven counts of fraud, lying and the usual stuff people around Trump go to prison for. At first Sondland, who began his opening statement by stating proudly he was “a lifelong Republican”, couldn’t remember half of this in his initial deposition, but testimony from colleagues began to out him which duly jogged his memory.

That memory is the final nail in Trump’s coffin in the House. He will doubtless now be the fourth president stained with impeachment forevermore and by all rights should be on a helicopter out of DC by Christmas, but the Republicans will make a monumental statement by not convicting him in the Senate – all of this is fine for the next president and the one after that, whether Republican, Democrat or Russian or Ukrainian. Anything goes and there isn’t a fucking thing the second equal-branch of government can do about it.

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THE BILL TAYLOR ANGLE

Aquarian Weekly
11/20/19

Reality Check

James Campion

THE BILL TAYLOR ANGLE
How a Lifetime Ambassador Frames the Trump/Ukraine Scandal

I could see the armed and hostile Russian-led forces on the other side of the damaged bridge across the line of contact. Over thirteen-thousand Ukrainians had been killed in the war, one or two a week. To this day, that continues. More Ukrainians would undoubtedly die without U.S. assistance. 
– Ambassador to Ukraine, William Taylor’s opening statement to congress impeachment hearings, November 13, 2019

While there is clearly enough evidence to impeach the president of the United States for trying to extort a foreign nation into making public announcements on investigating a political rival and relitigating Russian interference into the 2016 election – it’s pointless trying to argue against this anymore – the testimony of Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor this past week provided a key element missing in all of this; the congressionally allocated weapons aid to Ukraine withheld by Donald Trump from June until September of this year. The Democrats are holding Trump responsible for his reasoning. The Republicans are trying to mitigate his reasoning. However, what Mr. Taylor repeated again and again was the dangerously irresponsible measure of simply withholding funds congress passed, the president signed, and the American public funded. Period.

Taylor, who admitted in his testimony that he had considered quitting over “major concerns” that the United States was openly reneging on a deal that at the time was six-months overdue, referred to an anxious August 29 cable he sent directly to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in which he described “the folly I saw in withholding military aid to Ukraine at a time when hostilities were still active in the east and when Russia was watching closely to gauge the level of American support for the Ukrainian government.” Taylor concluded, “The Russians, as I said at my deposition, would love to see the humiliation of President Zelensky at the hands of the Americans. I told the Secretary that I could not and would not defend such a policy. Although I received no specific response, I heard that soon thereafter, the Secretary carried the cable with him to a meeting at the White House focused on security assistance for Ukraine.”

Pompeo, acting less as secretary of state and more like Trump’s enforcer throughout this growing scandal, predictably did not answer the cable and instead proceeded to demand anyone in his employ not cooperate with congress in the ensuing investigation. But what Taylor was seriously worried about was not why Trump would play around with not releasing what amounts to war funds to protect the interests of the U.S. and its foreign policy – whether personal gain or, as Republicans are trying in vain to convey, to investigate corruption – but that he was doing it at all.

This is the ugly story Bill Taylor told that has not been refuted by even the craziest Trump zealots.

In wrapping up his opening statement, Taylor made clear: “There is another Ukraine story—a positive, bipartisan one. This one is about young people in a young nation, struggling to break free of its past, hopeful that their new government will finally usher in a new Ukraine, proud of its independence from Russia, eager to join Western institutions and enjoy a more secure and prosperous life. This story describes a nation developing an inclusive, democratic nationalism, not unlike what we in America, in our best moments, feel about our diverse country—less concerned about what language we speak, what religion if any we practice, where our parents and grandparents came from; more concerned about building a new country.”

These are not sentiments of a politician, a Trump attacker or apologist. William Taylor sounds like a professional who has given his life and work to the sovereignty of a country threatened by its enemy, an enemy that infiltrated an American election that his president has denied ever happened, to the point of trying to shift blame on the very country he works in America’s interests to protect. His passion reverberates in every word of the above statement. And, for whatever reasons, Trump fucked with all of that. No one is disputing that much. That, I argue, and I think Taylor’s tone and testimony concurred, is an abuse of power and a shirking of the constitutional duties of the presidency and therefore enough for impeachment. And that is, as Taylor asserts, a forgotten angle to all this political back and forth that has and will transpire during these historical impeachment hearings.

In the nearly nine months (Trump released the funds on September 11 after severe and vociferous bi-partisan bitching by congress and the whistleblower allegations that he was playing footsies with Ukraine’s president to toss mud on his possible 2020 opponent) Ukraine lost hundreds of lives on the battlefield and compromised its position in defending its nation against Russian aggression. This is the ugly story Bill Taylor told that has not been refuted by even the craziest Trump zealots. Nine months went by as Trump did whatever he was doing. Allied lives were at stake and as such American security was compromised.

To make clear, the Trump administration initially told Congress it was releasing the aid to Ukraine on February 28. It repeated that assertion to Congress again on May 23. Not once in this timeline had the president given a single reason for this – incoherent, weird, reasonable or otherwise. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has arguably been Trump’s most effective attack machine on Capitol Hill, went to the cameras by mid-summer and shrugged his shoulders as to what was going on after he had been rebuffed by the State Department and the White House as to what the hell the president was doing and why.

At best McConnell had first been told from White House Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney, who was doubling as director of the Office of Management and Budget, that Trump wanted the money withheld because he had “concerns” about the aid’s necessity. Not, mind you, about ferreting out Ukrainian corruption or some half-baked conspiracy theories whipped up by rightwing blogs that the 2016 DNC email hacks had come from Ukraine and not Russia. These asinine cover stories, still being peddled, were later whipped up once the shit hit the fan.

Ten days after the funds were finally released, Trump, who lies so much he actually contradicts those lies with different lies, changed his story twice. On Monday, September 21, Trump told reporters that his decision to withhold the funds was due to concerns about corruption in Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s new government. Asked again the next day, Trump said he’d withheld the aid out of frustration that European countries were not doing enough to support Ukraine. This was followed by Mulvaney hosting a self-immolating press conference that we should all “get over it” because “it’s done all the time.”

Needless to say, all of this has led to where we are; impeachment hearings that Trump calls a hoax, because he calls everything a hoax. Here’s what not a hoax; the president of the United Stated withheld $391 million of military aid to an ally in time of war, a measure considered crucial enough for both houses of congress to pass as part of the annual budget and for the president himself to sign. Evidence is mounting that he did so for personal political gain and used unelected officials, rogue elements of the state department, and known criminals to help him pull it off. This is important distinctions to why, but the mere act of doing it is enough to warrant his removal from office as an unfit commander-in-chief. 

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